Mar 18, 2010

Cross Dressing vs. Cross Being

This is a post about coherence. No surprise that as I labor with the theme, coherence is eluding me. Irony can be so ironic. Thoughts on this topic were in part engendered by Janie, proprietress of “Inside and Out”, whose post back in January of this year really tugged at my skirt hem. My post today should stand (ed. or wilt) on its own merits, but I encourage you to read Janie anytime, and the linked post in particular for some provocative background into a what can be a problem area for anyone taking a really serious look at themselves through the lens of gender expression.

Cross Dressing can be, evidence suggests, a gateway behavior, a first unknowing step down a long and transformative path. For some, the path is related to their sexual orientation. For many, it uncovers a realization that there was a quality control foul-up at the Bureau of Gender Assignment.

For other Cross Dressers, and I (still) count myself amongst them, Cross Dressing in adult life is a compelling extension of what was a nameless youthful obsession, what was a fetishistic attraction or what-have-you. The chase is still on, but something other than immediate gratifications of the flesh is what is under pursuit.

Technically, Cross Dressing remains the process of temporarily altering surfaces. There is though an impact well below those hopefully pretty(er) surfaces. Cross Dressing takes me out for nice Spa Day. The perfumed air and subtle lighting relax me, and help lower my guard. Aggression gets exfoliated. Macho pressure points get a shiatsu treatment. As smooth, hot stones are applied to rigid discs, sources of irritation recede. Movement becomes more fluid. Tranquility reigns. I am at peace.

The body, in such a blissed out state carries senses and sensibilities to new places, green acres of feeling that are typically walled off from the typical guy, or at least walled off from my typical day. Much of it has to do with mindfulness of others. Call it sensitivity, I feel it in spades when en femme.

When I leave the spa, elbows jab, lights glare and horns honk, but they have less purchase on my attention. Consciously and unconsciously, the benefits of the Spa Day stay with me, and have a happy half-life in my general outlook. I have come to the belief that this sensitivity is integral to me. And narcissism aside, I really like the person who displays it.

I have spent close to five full decades either suppressing or not consciously cultivating these senses which are seeming to me now to be very important and attractive aspects of my whole self. It was always relatively easy to play the behavioral hand I was assigned at birth, to get in line with the norms (and the Norm’s I suppose). In some settings, I might find myself less capable of the display of hairy-backed simian chest thumping and jocularity than other guys in the room, but I typically put that down to generalized cynicism rather than something tied to my coordinates on some Magic Quadrant of gender expression.

I remain happy in my cynicism, but that personality trait seems not to be the thing after all. It is more a matter of gender expression.

And now to coherence. I have a choice with this realization.

- reinforce walls, or
- knock walls down

Framing the issue this way editorializes very much in favor of knocking walls down, but please believe me when I say that I truly appreciate the value of walls. Walls hold up whole structures, give shelter, provide comfort, and can be decorated to delight the senses of the people within them. I understand people who standing (hand on hip) at the same fork in the road as I might choose to separate their “parts” and provide distinct nourishment to these separate and likely to remain unequal halves.

Knocking walls down editorializes for liberation and freedom (heroic and aspirational things yes), but has with it the impact of exposing spaces to sometimes harsh winds, and all manner of plague and pest, large and small. At the expense of laying myself siege to these unknowable (but likely mostly benign) forces, I feel more inclined towards knocking down walls in pursuit of personal coherence.

I believe that there is one true “voice” contained within my two distinct outer layers. Finding and exercising that voice may result in the loss or gradual erosion of some of the natural abilities that have served me well in host of arenas. I am persuaded though that the benefits of actively tending to those inner traits that help me perceive and participate in the world reasonably well en femme outweigh the risks.

I have little acquaintance with the risks yet, but will cite a couple of examples here now.

Some weeks ago, I bought a nice top, while presenting male. There was no discussion about who the garment was for. Sometimes a blouse is just a blouse it seems. Leaving the shop I threw my arm through the bag straps and hoisted my bounty up on to my shoulder, in a way that would leave absolutely no doubt as to whose shoulders the blouse would ultimately be resting on. No big deal, but this trivial moment is merely the tip of a behavioral iceberg. How many other “tells”, signals will I send out?

And for some months now, long months really, as I have become more accomplished at presenting as "Petra", (or at least more comfortable with my limitations), the thrill of the act has become less pronounced. I think no less about Cross Dressing: I am just doing it less. Partial dressing seems not to be a requirement. I dress almost exclusively from top to toe now. When I do, I am less enthralled by the scope of change to my shape, by the smooth, clingy fabrics, by the polished make up and lengthened nails. The jangle of jewelry surprises me not.

There is a now a growing familiarity. I do not believe that familiarity necessarily breeds contempt, but it can be a breeding ground for indifference. That would be a high price for coherence. We just never know what is next it seems.

What is next for you friends?


Wendy said...

Ooooh, Girl, you have scratched an itch forming in me for the last few months. Cross living so much better describes how I see myself than cross dressing. The clothes, makeup, and "tells" just give me liberty to express what's inside me. Finding that true me is the journey. Thanks for helping crystallize my thinking.


Petra Bellejambes said...

Hey Wendy - I feel like I did a good days work now. Many thanks for visiting and for your kind words.

Cheers - Petra

Tights Lover said...

It's an interesting tug of war going on between wanting to get a thrill out of dressing (and acting and being seen dressed) and wanting it all to be 'normal'...after all it IS who we are.

Sending out 'tells' has always been important to me, if for no other reason than I feel it unhealthy to keep it all bottled up.

And then again, sometimes, I just wanna go into a Victoria's Secret and not have to go through the "how tall is 'she'?" "what is 'her' style" type questions. I long for a "what can we get you today?" instead...

Anonymous said...

My dear Petra,

You do rise to the challenge - the more complex the issue, the more profound and magical the way you collect and arrange just the right words; I swear I was truly moved by the depth and beauty of your writing on this one. You have a rare gift.

Truth be told, I intend to re-read this post regularly - such a gem it is.

I am one of those who wants to try to keep my two genders separate. I glory in the differences between the genders, and the freedom to be whichever I want.

But you are right to say that the guy side can very much be enhanced by the lingering glow of the feminine; I am lately finding it ok - actually much more than ok - to jump back and forth between my genders as I see fit, even for a moment here and there - entirely on an emotional and mental plain. But I prefer to remain conscious of it.

My personal experience is that I cannot manage the masculine for long in feminine attire and vice versa. Your brilliant observation holds true for me that the clothes and perfume and makeup of the woman into which I make myself almost meld biologically into my consciousness and effect a change of personality, if not person.

On the subject of familiarity, you seem to be struggling with your assimilation of Petra into your one true and coherent self to the point where she becomes a familiar part of him and disappears. If you can find truth and comfort in each of your genders, why does one remain and the other disappear? And, in the truly androgynous vein, is it not a delicious privilege to be a sexual creature that is both male and female, proud to be neither one exactly?

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